In the East there is a state border with Mongolia, in the north-east and north the border with the Oka district of Buryatia, in the west with the Irkutsk region, in the south-west with the Zakamensky district of Buryatia.
Tunka district was established in 1923. The population is predominantly Buryat and Russian - 26.2 thousand people. Large settlements - Kyren, Tunka, Arshan. The distance from Ulan-Ude to the administrative center of the district,the village ofKyren (meaning raven, raven place in Buryat),is 490 km. There is a 179 kmasphalthighway crossing Tunkadistrict.
The ArshanRoad(33 km) branchesoffthehighway at the village of Zakatuy. There is a road to Oka District from the village of Mondy, and a bridle path via the upper reaches at Zun-Murino towards Dzhida River. IntheEastthereis a state border with Mongolia, in the north-east and north the border with the Oka district of Buryatia, in the west with the Irkutsk region, in the south-west with the Zakamensky district of Buryatia.
Tunka (Mong. – fromtheancienttribe of Tunkaits), Tunka district, Tunka hollow, TunkaBald Peaks.Khongodor is the tribal name for the Buryats living at the banks of the Belaya, Kitoy and Irkut rivers, whose ancestors moved here from Mongolia before the arrival of the Russians.
The district occupies the valley of the Irkut River between the Khamar-Daban and the Eastern Sayansranges. The width of the valley is about 40 km. The climate is temperate continental. Summers are hot, winters are cold and long. The absolutely whitesnowcoverenhancesthesunradiationreflectionwhich may result in snow-blindness and winter tan, especially in the highlands, so it is to be taken into account when equipping tourist groups. There are ideal conditions for climate therapy here with the pure mountain air and plenty of sun. Tunkapresents a variety of landscapes, mountain peaks eternally covered with snow, alpine meadows and glaciers, sand dunes and tundra, steppe and foothills, taiga and mysterious gorges, fantastic canyons, clear rivers, deep lakes, breakneck waterfalls, pristine swamps. Water resources of the Tunka district belong to the basin of the Angara river and lake Baikal. The main waterway, the Irkutriver (Turkic "ir" means bend, curve)is the largest tributary of the Angara, 448 km long. It is popular with whitewater tourists. The river is inhabited with 18 species of fish, including taimen, pike, grayling. The Irkutheadstream is made by the confluence of the rivers BeliyIrkut flowing from the Munku-Sardykmountains and Black Irkut the source of which is Lake Ilchir in TunkaBald Peaks at an altitude of 2000 m. The rivers are full of rifts and rapids, there are also waterfalls.
Tunkaisextremelyrichin flora and fauna, abounds in mushrooms, berries, nuts, fish, game, furbearers. Many plants are medicinal,some of them registered in the Red Book as rare and endangered species. The animal world is diverse, withthe numerous gopher, rat-hare, fox in the steppe, sable, squirrel, muskrat, Siberian striped weasel, elk, deer, roe, musk deer in the taiga andthe Red Book mountain goat and reindeerin the highlands. Amongrareandendangered animals one can also mention the otter, thesaker, the large spotted eagle, the Altaic snowcock, the long-eared owl, the spittle, the nodule, the ordinary viper, and the sharp-edged frog. According to researchers, the territory of the region deserves the status of the key ornithological territory of Asia.
The abundance of mineral springs has given Tunka valley the name of "the area of Siberian narzans." A relatively small area hosts sources of mineral waters analogical to those in the Caucasus: cold, warm and hot ones. Mineral springs are always places of worship, at each source there is a corner where they put offerings (milk, cookies, sweets), tie ribbons, say prayers.
To preserve the integrity of landscapes, geological objects, flora and fauna, nature monuments, history and culture, the Tunka National Park was established in 1991, formed in the administrative boundaries of the entire region. The park possesses wide opportunities for the development of mountaineering, sightseeing, sports and health tourism. There are automobile, pedestrian, equestrian, water, ski, mountain routes developed here. Bus tours are especially popular.
The history of Tunka appears in archaeological monuments, cemeteries, sites of ancient people. Legends and tales are devoted to real events of the 12th-13th centuries; there are some remains of historical monuments preserved here:
– TunkaStockaded Town (the first border fortress of Russian Cossacks in the mid-17th century), the Orthodox Church of the Intercession (1812), Russian and Polish political exiles burial plots at the Nikolsky cemetery. There are many memorable places associated with the stay of the Decembrists, revolutionary events and civil war, the life of famous figures of science, culture and art of Buryatia. In the museum of local lore of the village ofHoytogolthere are authentic things, utensils, documents telling about the history, culture of Tunka valley.
OBJECTS OF TOURISM INTEREST
The Burkhan-Baabai (Father God) Mountain, Nile’s Hermitage, the area of Hoito-Gol. Shamans have performed sacrifice rituals here fromancient times. Once a year lamas hold a great prayer. In 1919 the Tibetan lama Darma saw Shargai-Noyon in meditation: "On a light-bay, with a bow and arrows, with a sword in his hands". Khangalov, a painter,made an oil paintingon a flat stoneof the warrior the way the lama saw him. Youngpeoplecalled up to the military service hold public prayers here. Sand from the mountain is considered as guarding in the family life, so it is sewn into a pouch and worn on the body. The sand is also considered as curative, it is applied to sore spots; and a bag of sand is hung in cattle pens to keep the animals healthy and productive. A sandbag like that may be seen in any house over the door: the Tunkians believe it to drive away demons and evil spirits from the house.
– The marble bottom and the three waterfalls more than eight meters high on the Kyngyrga river (the Evenk for drum, tambourine);
– theIrkuttributaryoriginatingattheslopesofthe Tunka Bald Peaks at the height of 2960 m, with the flow velocity of 1.5 m/sec. in the upper reaches;
– Lakes Nurkutul are located in the most beautiful glacial moraine landscapes, at an altitude of 1050 m, they are rich in fish and present scientific and recreational interest.
– Bukha-Noyon (WhiteStone) – a rocky outcrop of marble on the spurs of TunkaBald Peaks (1050 m), a place of worship. Two sharp high rock pillars can be seen from a large distance. Buryats-shamanists saw in the rock the image of the ancestor of the Buryat people - the royal bull Bukh-Noyon-Babay. The shamanists make donations to him, the Buddhists have put up a shrine, the Orthodox have built a chapel. The place is tabooed. Climbing and rituals are performed on certain days by shamans. Only elderly men and women are allowed to climb;
– Tamkhi-barayasha(the Buryat for“tobacco offering”). Aplaceofworshipofshamans; thereisaone-and-a-half meter long pipeon a support, the ritual fire and fragrances are being lit in the shank, offerings are being made to the “master” of the place in the form of white food, vodka, tea and coins.
– Zhemchug – a spring, the methane terms. Zhemchug (“Zhemkheg”inBuryatmeaningthebestpiecesofmeat, traditionally offered as a gift during slaughter of animals, or originating from the word “zhemes” meaning berries). There is a medical unit arranged here meant for curing diseases of musculoskeletal and nervoussystems, skin and gynecological diseases. NexttoitthereisShadon-Su-Burganadagoba(The Enlightenment Dagoba). ThereareparticlesofBuddhistholyrelicslaid in its bottom, including those of Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Therearealsothingshere that used to belong to AgwanDorzhiyev;
– PapiynArshan - aspringof brakish water. A place of worship.Thespringisessentiallyasmalllake. Therearesomehandmadewoodentroughsforthewatertogetintoametaltankforheating, fromwhereitissuppliedtothebaths. The source is surrounded by five wooden cottages and a lodging car;
– Suburga (SuburgynArshan) – a low-salinity brook, a place of worship. There is a stone suburgan erected at the head of the brook. Arshanishelpfulforcuring diseases of joints, lameness, internal diseases. Before the ascent to the suburgan it is customary to perform a ceremony of purification by burningfire and burning ars. Leaving offerings is recommended;
– Khongor-Uuly – chalybeatesprings are situated at the distance of 9 km from the village of Zhemchug in the Kharagun river valley. The water of the sources areused in the treatment of eye diseases, diseases of the upper respiratory tract;
ARSHANHEALTHRESORT(“healingspring” inBuryat) is a health-resort settlement is situated in 450 km from Ulan-Udeh, in 220 from Irkutsk and 120from Slyudyanka Station. There are regular buses from Irkutsk and Ulan-Udeh. One may also take a train to Slyudyanka Station, and then proceed by bus to Arshan Village. Resort "Arshan" is a large, multidisciplinary climatic-balneological resort. There are all-year-round sanatoriums "Arshan" and "Sayany", the children's health camp "Edelweiss" for 100 persons, the "Mother and Child" department.They treat chronic diseases of digestive system, diseases of circulatory and respiratory organs, endocrine and urinary systems, metabolic disorders and disorders of nervous system. The mineral water of the Arshan spring is superior in properties to the Kislovodsknarzan, darasun and other well-known waters. Sapropel sulfide muds are used for the treatment of musculoskeletal system, skin and gynecological diseases.
NILE’S HERMITAGE- a mineral spring in the village of the same name - was discovered in early19th century, bears the name of Nile, the Archbishop of Irkutsk, who declared the place a "hermitage" and built a church. The word "Hermitage" used to be applied to "a small monastery in a deserted sparsely inhabited area". In the opinion of the archbishop, "hermitages" were meant, apart from the religious services for the huge district, "to take care ofprosperity of mineral waters and serve as a hotbed of farming and truck farming among the nomadic population”.
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST
– Khuzhir (the Buryat for salt-marshes) is a village in Tunka District. Salt-marshesusedtomeanquitealotinthelifeofBuryathunters: animals came up to them to lick salt, and it was very convenient to watch and get them;
– An observatory for monitoring solar activity in Badary area with the world's largest radio telescope;
– theexposition of the geological museum in the village of Mondy representing the history of the development of mineral deposits in the Tunka Valley;
– themuseum ofHoytogolvillage - a rich collection of items of household utensils, clothes, ornaments - is kept there.